Campaign Contributions: Following the money in the Democratic primary

Published: Jul. 18, 2022 at 5:56 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 18, 2022 at 7:23 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Lt. Gov. Molly Gray leads in fundraising in the lead-up to the August primaries for Vermont’s lone congressional seat. But Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint is not far behind.

Federal finance data shows from April to July, Gray raised more than $360,000 and has about half a million dollars on hand.

Balint raised more than $400,000 and has about $360,000 on hand.

Sianay Chase Clifford raised more than $12,000.

Dr. Louis Meyers raised more than $250,000. The majority of that is his own money.

But what do the dollars tell us? Analysts say these massive fundraising figures mean this is a hotly contested primary.

Both Gray and Balint are closing in on a million dollars raised this entire cycle.

It’s a sprint to the finish line. Candidates are ramping up fundraising and spending on TV, radio and social media ads to rally votes ahead of the primaries.

In the “most money” race between the perceived frontrunners, Balint and Gray, it’s just about neck and neck.

“It’s an indicator that this is a very close race and both candidates are searching for any means of gaining an advantage,” said Matt Dickinson, a political science professor at Middlebury College.

That includes disputes about where candidates receive their money from and who is spending on their behalf.

You may have seen an ad for Balint funded by the LGBTQ Victory Fund, an independent expenditure group or so-called super PAC which supports LGBTQ candidates.

The super PAC can raise and spend as much money as it wants but is not allowed to coordinate with campaigns.

“It raises the question about outside money in Vermont elections and whether independent expenditures should be able to shape the narrative,” Dickinson said.

The Gray campaign has condemned the spending.

Gray and Balint both swore off super PAC spending and Balint’s campaign says they did not invite the spending, nor do they approve of it.

Under the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision, super PACs can spend whatever they want on whoever they want, whether the candidate wants them to or not.

“Because it is a First Amendment right that these independent super PACs have. The candidate can do absolutely nothing more than say, ‘I don’t like it, I don’t want it,’ but they can’t stop it,” said Jared Carter of the Vermont Law School.

But it remains to be seen whether this money fight will have an effect on voters.

This once-in-a-generation congressional race has been the closest-watched of the year.

The November general election is months away and whoever wins the primary will be matched up with the Republican nominee.

But Dickinson says in a state that almost always sends Democrats to D.C., this race will likely decide who represents us in Washington.

“They are trying to make it clear to the voters this is, ‘Hey, this is where the decision about who will represent you might be made,’” Dickinson said.

With three weeks until the primaries, there will likely be more fundraising, more spending and more efforts to get voters to the polls.

In the Republican primary, independent Liam Madden is leading the pack with more than $36,000.

This all comes as early and absentee voting is underway. Almost 41,000 voters requested early and absentee ballots, and more than 11,000 have sent them back.

As for the U.S. Senate race to replace outgoing Sen. Patrick Leahy, Democratic Rep. Peter Welch raised over $970,000. On the Republican side, former U.S. attorney Christina Nolan raised $180,000 and Army veteran Gerald Malloy raised about $50,000.

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